A Question I Was Asked:

'What If We Only Had the Gospels?'

Here is the question:

"...If we didn't have anything in the New Testament apart from the gospels, would we still have a clear understanding of salvation? Or do we have to assume and rely on the inerrancy of Paul's writings to fully understand salvation?"

My Reply:

If the New Testament just comprised the gospels, we could still know a great deal by putting the Gospels together with the Old Testament, including the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and the Saviour of the world. In a very real sense that might be enough. Trouble is, you would have all kinds of cults and sects twisting exactly what the message and gospel meant and how it should be applied. The writings of Paul and the writers of the other epistles make it much, much harder for people to twist the message of the Bible, because those writers established doctrine. So Jesus came as the Messiah and the Saviour of the world, but it was then largely left to the epistle writers, especially Paul, to break this down to the 'nuts and bolts' practicality of everyday Christian belief and practice. These epistle writers make it harder for perverters of the message of the Bible to operate. Also the completed and agreed Bible canon was prophesied to 'bring things to your remembrance' after Jesus returned to heaven:

'But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.' (John 16:7-8, NIV throughout).

'But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.' (John 16:13-15).

These promises of Jesus have been fulfilled by the Holy Spirit inspiring the New Testament writers to complete the Bible canon. We need this full instruction and an accurate record of what Jesus said and did in order to protect us from heresies!

Now it is true that there still are cults and sects, but we are now in the blessed position of being able to point out numerous things in the New Testament in establishing what is truly "biblical" and "Gospel-based" and what is in error. This would have been a near-impossible task but for the epistles!

So the answer is that with just the Gospels we could know all about Jesus and who He was, but experience shows that people will tend to twist and pervert these things to their own destruction without good solid teaching. This is where Paul, Peter, John and the writer of Hebrews help us all out enormously.

Hope this helps with your question.

Robin A. Brace, March, 2008.

UK APOLOGETICS